I was looking through my photos today, clearing up space on my phone; deleting things like screenshots of maps and silly texts, accidental finger shots, you know, the garbage that needs to be purged every once in a while.
As I was scrolling through, my photographs from Ouagadougou struck a chord of nostalgia. I slowed down, and looked more carefully. While I’ve loved almost every place I’ve travelled, and certainly wished more than once that I could return to any given place, this was different. I realized, as I was looking through the photographs of the dirt roads through the cracked windshield of my taximan Madi’s car, that while yes, I missed the place, I also missed the version of myself that I was during that short time.
One thing about travelling such a long distance for an extended period of time utterly and completely alone is that very likely, something will shift. Without all of the usual expectations, routines and familiar social circles around you to support whatever version of yourself you’ve constructed over the years, you are free to reject all of it and to simply be who you are, without questioning it. That is, perhaps, what is so alluring about being an unknown in a big, new city, is the prospect of being just a stranger passing through.
In Burkina, I wore no make-up. I couldn’t, because of the heat. My eyebrows grew out, and I couldn’t do much about it, because I had lost my tweezers. I wore clothes I likely wouldn’t be caught dead in at home, and I became fascinated with jewellery and decor that now sits unused in my closet, no longer fitting the version of myself that I returned to at the end of my trip.
I’m nostalgic for the carefree, introspective admiration and consideration of the world that I held while I was walking through dusty roads with sweat pouring down the back of my neck.
In the here and now, the stresses of everyday life seem trivial and mundane compared to the wonder I was able to hold in the palm of my hand there, and yet I am still consumed by them.
That’s the wonderful thing about photographs though: They are memory preservers. They can freeze a moment in time and reveal to you it’s story. With a glance through some pictures, you can be transported back to the smells, sounds and emotions that absorbed you with every passing second. The mistakes, the triumphs, the loss and the harmonies will all come rushing back, and despite the challenges and roadblocks that you went through, you’ll have a deeper appreciated for your journey and the version of yourself that you discovered along the way.